As we all sat together with family on Thursday we gave thanks for all we value in life, our freedoms and our right to make choices.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jon Martin of Bellevue made his choice: He would serve his nation. The warrior, who was on his third tour of duty in Iraq, died on Thanksgiving from injuries sustained Nov. 9 when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.
"His heart was in the military," said his sister, Heather Bollinger. "He always wanted to be a soldier."
Her brother, a father of three, was a humble man, she said.
"He (didn't) want people to feel sorry for him when he's just doing his job," Bollinger said. "He's my hero. He really is."
Staff Sgt. Jon Martin of Bellevue is an American hero.
Martin's death occurred almost simultaneously with headlines in the New York Times declaring enormous progress in overcoming the violence that U.S. troops face in Iraq. We've turned a corner in this war, according to the Gray Lady, but I'm suspicious.
Why wouldn't I be?
My gut instinct tells me any progress is because of backroom deals made by U.S. officials with Iraqi militias who were killing American troops last year. Those militias are just as likely to start killing American troops again next year.
Never a supporter or a protester, I was left without a strong opinion by the rhetoric and the politics of this war. I decided to sit on my hands after Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke before the United Nations, laying out the case for war.
I wanted to believe in the rightness of my government's policy. I wanted to believe President Bush.
The service members in Iraq all are heroes, but there are villains in this war on terror.
The No. 1 villains are the hijackers, who on Sept. 11, 2001, stole jet airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing more than 3,000 Americans.
Unfortunately our leaders became villains in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and so did the American press. The New York Times walked hand-in-hand with the Bush administration, and most Americans came to believe, falsely, that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
And we all believed he had Weapons of Mass Destruction. The evidence was undeniable, Vice President Dick Cheney told us.
President Bush and even Cheney believed in the rightness of their mission, but they never played by any set of rules regarding truth. The intelligence they relied on was cherry-picked to back up their truths and they outed a CIA covert operative when that intelligence was called into question.
Then they lied some more about who knew what, when, and why.
There are few truths I know about this war:
n Good men like U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jon Martin died in service to their country, more than 3,875 so far, including 164 from Ohio.
n Tens of thousands of American military personnel have been maimed and will not get the care from their government they've earned.
n We've stretched our military to the breaking point.
n We've bankrupted our children and grandchildren by spending more than a $1 trillion on a cause that will ultimately fail.
n Our leaders have lied to us repeatedly and manipulated the political process.
n The American media, including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN and Fox News Network all failed miserably to do the job expected of a free press.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jon Martin, died Nov. 22, 2007
Pfc. Jason L. Sparks, killed Sept. 8, 2004
Adam Kurczi, U.S.-Iraq veteran, committed suicide in Vermilion, June 10, 2007
Sgt. Keith A. Kline, killed July 5, 2007
Specialist Charles E. Odums II, killed May 30, 2004
Sgt. Philip Cantu, member of the Army unit that captured Saddam Hussein, committed suicide June 2006 in Ashtabula, Ohio.